Becoming More Catholic – Pastor’s Reflection (February 21, 2016)
This past Sunday at the Noon Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer we celebrated the “Rite of Sending.” We sent our Catechumens to Cardinal Dolan, who on that same afternoon enrolled them as members of the “Elect,” to be approved for Baptism this Easter. The involvement of the Archbishop in our Paschal Baptisms struck me this year. Our Catechists, our Catechumens, and their sponsors actually left our Mass early, trudged through the bitter cold, and inserted themselves into the melee of a jammed cathedral; all because of our connection to the Archbishop and “local Church.” Those to be baptized may identify with the powerful message of Pope Francis, and they may also savor the distinctiveness of our Parish, but they also will become part of the Archdiocese of New York, properly understood as a communion of souls. The Holy Spirit has assembled men, women, and children from this whole region in such a way that their life together makes the Catholic Church present and palpable in its array of gifts and in its varieties of discipleship.
The Local Church of New York registers as Catholic because it enjoys a seamless connection to the Global Church and takes up its share of the whole Church’s gifts and burdens. Throughout the year, every parish takes up a series of collections that add up to a comprehensive responsibility for the life of the Body of Christ throughout the world. We collect for Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, as well as marginalized communities in the US. We address the needs of Catholic Relief Services, the concerns of the Holy Father (Peter’s Pence), and the needs of specific missionary enterprises. Each of these collections involves individual contribution, but finds its true effectiveness in the whole Archdiocese acting in concert.
But the Archdiocese is Catholic not only by connection but in essence. Those with eyes to see may perceive the whole life of the Church present in our midst. The Archbishop himself embodies the Catholicity of the local Church. For example, each year on the Tuesday of Holy Week, at the Mass of Chrism, His Eminence blesses the Holy Oils, and these go forth from St. Patrick’s to touch every aspect of the Church’s life. People will be baptized, confirmed, and ordained with these oils, churches will receive their dedication through them, and countless numbers of sick will feel in them the healing touch of Christ. Oil permeates and so does the effect of the Holy Spirit. No facet of society escapes His impact as He assembles souls and connects them to need.
Look around our two churches sometime and see how the Spirit connects the well-off and the poor in one room to hear one sermon, to pray at one altar, and to receive Communion from one dish. In the Church, He gathers across the lines of age and race, gender, and politics. Through His inspirations Christ summons disciples from within every profession, craft, and artistry.
Those from every state of Christian life locate their discipleship here. Gathered here are the married couples who share their experience with younger couples in the marriage preparation program. The Archdiocese elicits the gifts of all kinds of women and men religious. As a Pastor, I meet the lawyers, accountants, teachers, doctors, and nurses who have directed their professional expertise and energy to the life of the Church. These people are a phone call away from our parish staff, helping us to navigate the world of affairs, and helping us to be better stewards of parish resources.
We are graced to contribute to Christ’s work on earth when we make Catholic life available in every corner of our region by sharing our resources with other parishes not so comfortably situated.
When we contemplate a contribution to this years’sStewardship Appeal for the Archdiocese we might consider that we are not giving money to an institution but promoting a whole life, with Christ at its heart and the Holy Spirit as its animator. It seems to me that when any of us support Catholic life, we ourselves become more Catholic, that is, integrally connected to the Church at all of her levels and in each of her aspects.
No doubt, we face the temptation to make this appeal a referendum on persons and policies. What we want more deeply, I feel, is to encourage individuals and communities to live in reliance on the promises of Christ so as to make Him palpable in every borough and county. Since God is not outdone in generosity, He surely will use our support of others to support us.